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Remembering Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

I was some sad news for all of rock n’ roll yesterday, when we learned that Texas guitar legend Johnny Winter had died at the age of 70 in a hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland. The blues legend was overseas to play what turned out to be his final concert — Saturday night at the Lovely Days festival in Wiesen, Austria.

Even though I grew up in Michigan, I always loved Johnny’s music. He got regular airplay on Detroit rock radio in the 70′s, and one of my best friends and I were fortunate enough to see him in concert on three separate occasions, twice at Cobo Arena in Detroit, and once at the Felt Forum in New York City. He always put on one hell of a show. He influenced many guitar players in his career, but he never really got the commercial success that he deserved. Johnny is now jamming with Jimi, Stevie Ray and all the other fallen guitar heroes in heaven, Check out some footage of Johnny below. 

The cause of Winter’s death has not been revealed, but the acclaimed bluesman had been battling health problems in recent years. Winter — older brother to fellow musician Edgar — rose to national prominence in the late ’60s, after Columbia Records signed him to a contract that reportedly featured the largest advance in the history of the music business to that point.

His 1969 self-titled Columbia debut and 1970′s ‘Second Winter’ established him as a major player on the national scene. A battle with heroin addiction soon derailed his career (he would battle various addictions throughout his life), but he recovered and went on to enjoy an over five decade-long career that was — as his 2014 box set declared — fully devoted and ‘True to the Blues.’

Winter was working hard right up until the end of his life, assembling a star-laden album entitled ‘Step Back‘ that will feature guest spots from peers such as Eric Clapton, ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons and Aerosmith‘s Joe Perry. The album is due for release on Sept. 2.

“I never had the opportunity to jam with him,” Gibbons previously noted. “I was content to remain in awe and admiration without attempting to crowd the stage.”

Next: See Other Rockers We've Lost in 2014

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